The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee two-row media first drive event began like most at our hotel in Moab, as we set out for the on-road portion of the testing process. What made this event unique was that after a short time driving on paved roads, we headed off-road, into the hills of Moab. Most media first drive events begin with a classroom-style presentation, where engineers tell us all about the vehicle. That usually happens before we hit the road, but this time, we drove from our hotel to the presentation, which was held in the shadow of the section of Moab called the Lions’ Back.
Getting there required some driving off-road and while the Summit Reserve is the polar opposite of an ideal off-road machine, the plushest Grand Cherokee dug through the sand and over the rocks with 21-inch wheels and low profile rubber. Frankly, that short section of off-roading with the premium luxury version showed that even in the least off-road-friendly trim, this new Grand Cherokee can handle its own on unpaved surfaces. Against the stunning backdrop of scenic Moab, the 2022 Grand Cherokee shined bright from the start.
Cruising Along the Colorado
After the presentation next to the Lion’s Back, we headed back out onto paved roads. The heart of the on-road drive route took us along Route 128, which runs along the Colorado River. This winding road is lined on both sides by sheer, towering rock walls that create one of the most visually dynamic backgrounds I have experienced on a test drive route. This twisty road allowed us to experience the crystal clear ride quality, but it also let us test the handling capabilities of the new Grand Cherokee.
This new generation of the Grand Cherokee has gotten larger, even in two-row form, but you wouldn’t know it based on driving dynamics. It is surprisingly smooth on the twisty roads with minimal body roll under normal driving circumstances. If you prefer to hit the turns a bit more aggressively, the Sport driving mode adjusts the Quadra-Lift air suspension system for more support and a slightly stiffer ride along with altering the shift patterns, holding the gears a bit longer for stronger acceleration.
Speaking of acceleration, my 2022 Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve was fitted with the 3.6-liter Pentastar, offering 293 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. With the standard 8-speed automatic transmission, acceleration is surprisingly strong, so while I missed the grunt of the Hemi V8, the standard V6 provides plenty of power. Even when climbing the steep, twisty ridge road that led us to La Sal Lookout Point, the new Grand Cherokee never felt underpowered with the Pentastar.
That twisty mountain road, leading us up away from the Colorado River to the incredible vantage point of La Sal Lookout, was narrow, without a shoulder in most places. There were tight switchbacks on the gradual climb along with tight sections of back-and-forth turns that showed that the larger Grand Cherokee is just as nimble as the last. That twisty road was an even greater test on the way back down, as when making those hard switchbacks coming downhill, with gravity working against you, the braking system is put to the test.
With the Sport drive mode engaged, I was able to drive the Grand Cherokee much more aggressively than any owner ever will and the big SUV really handled the treacherous hill climb-and-descent beautifully. Also, after driving on that narrow ridge road, Route 128 heading back into Moab seemed like a wide open highway. Under those far more routine driving conditions, the combination of ride quality and handling was magnified amidst the stunning backdrop of the Colorado River.
While the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve handled surprisingly well on the scenic roads around the Colorado River, the reality of the situation is that few people who buy one of these two-row SUVs will drive on those situations. Most people will drive them in dense traffic, on four-lane roads with few real turns. In those conditions, the Grand Cherokee is smooth and silent. With the windows up and the massive sunroof closed, the cabin is whisper quiet, so if you are commuting with coworkers or discussing an upcoming spelling test while taking the kids to school, it is a great environment to carry on a conversation.
True Luxury Level Cabin
While the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve offers a smooth, quiet ride, the comfort goes beyond chassis and suspension engineering. This package comes with Palermo leather seats with quilted bolsters that look great and feel very luxurious, with 12-way power adjustment for the driver’s seat, heated and cooled surfaces and a massaging feature. While the temperature in Moab didn’t cater to using the heated or cooled seats, I did use the massaging feature and it works nicely. I spent the better part of two hours behind the wheel and the massaging seats prevented that feeling that you get with constant pressure against the seatback on a long drive.
The seats are stunning, looking and feeling like something that you would see in a six-figure luxury SUV, but the seats are only the tip of the premium iceberg. The quilted leather from the seats extends through the steering wheel, dashboard and door panels with real wood trim joining the leather to create a bright contrast against the predominantly-dark cabin. There is also heavy use of gloss black across the dash and center stack flowing into the center console, with all of that black trimmed with satin silver. It sounds busy, but from the driver’s seat, the spread of leather, wood, gloss black and satin silver look more like a European luxury vehicle at a fraction of the cost.
Finally, the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve has the most impressive infotainment system in the segment, including the digital gauge cluster with a navigation map screen, a night vision screen and displays for pretty much everything else you could want to know while driving. In the middle of the dash is the huge 10.1-inch touchscreen, which offers a great look at all of the vehicle information, from HVAC controls and massaging seat functions to drive modes and navigation displays.
Running the fifth generation of the award-winning UConnect system, this touchscreen also has a few dedicated buttons for the most common functions along with more controls on the steering wheel. Above the leather-wrapped dash is a big, easy-to-see head-up display with a speedometer, navigation details and other information. There is even a 10-inch screen on the passenger side with a suite of information for your navigator as well, although I drove alone for this event.
Each of these features would be impressive in any of the competitors vehicles, but the fact that they are all packaged together shows why the Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve is the unrivaled king of this segment.
Whether you are driving across town or across the country, the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve as remarkably smooth and quiet, with surprisingly nimble driving dynamics without compromising ride quality – even with the 21-inch wheels. This new two-row Grand Cherokee has a tighter, more premium feel on the road, but it does so without feeling like a larger, lumbering SUV. Add in the luxury level cabin and the newest Jeep Grand Cherokee is truly the most impressive option in its class.
Off-Roading in Moab
While the Grand Cherokee is not the most off-road-capable vehicle in the Jeep lineup, the company picked Moab to show off the fact that it is so capable. Even though most off-roaders will go with the likes of the Wrangler, the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk will handle rough terrain better than any of the competitors.
To show us that, we each took a Trailhawk up into the hills of Moab, climbing a tight, steep path that took us to a high point overlooking the town. As you might imagine, the path was a mixture of loose, deep sand and rocks, with some larger rocks requiring us to climb up and over.
Even though the Grand Cherokee filled the path side to side, we had no problem making the tight switchback turns as we dug through the sand and rocks. Thanks to the disconnecting sway bar, the two-row Jeep easily made its way over sections of deep, alternating holes, sometimes scraping across some large rocks on the way to the top of the hill.
Most vehicles would not have been able to climb the first hill when we turned off of the paved road, let alone make that first hard, uphill turn. The Grand Cherokee Trailhawk did so with ease, and it breezed through a handful of other, tougher obstacles on our way to the top of Raven’s Rim. Even though many 2022 Grand Cherokee owners will not do any serious off-roading, those who buy a Trailhawk can take on the toughest terrain in the world with confidence.